In June 2000, Interior Secre t a ry Bru c eBabbitt established the National LandscapeC o n s e rvation System, placing a variety of c o n s e rvation lands and features managed bythe Bureau of Land Management into oneadministrative system. This new approach tomanaging western landscapes was the latest ina series of steps to broaden the BLM’s missionto include protection and pre s e rv a t i o n .
Today, 5 1/2 years since its inception, the National LandscapeConservation System (NLCS) consists of more than 800 spec-tacular landscapes and features encompassing tens of millions of acres throughout the western United States and Alaska. NLCSunits include Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, National Monuments, National Conservation Areas (NCA’s), Wild andScenic Rivers, Historic Trails and other designations. While theNLCS is growing in recognition and acceptance, it faces signifi-cant obstacles that must be overcome if it is to have an enduringlegacy, joining the national parks and wildlife refuges as one of America’s premiere conservation systems.Five years after its creation, The Wilderness Society conduct-ed an assessment of the NLCS. The study, available on their
December 15, 2007
News of the desert from Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee
Preserving The Best Of The RestOf The American West
website, pointed out current shortfalls and identified a series of actions that Congress and the public could take to improve theeffectiveness of the system. Interviews with BLM managersrevealed both dedication and enthusiasm for the System and frus-tration with current problems.Primary among the problems the study identified is a severefunding shortfall. According to the study, “The 2006 budget forthe NLCS of $46 million translates to approximately $1.70 peracre, compared to the roughly $5 per acre that goes to theNational Wildlife Refuge System and roughly $19 per acre forthe National Park Service.” Because of inadequate funding, many NLCS units do not have adequate law enforcement presence,and baseline inventories, which provide critically importantinformation about the extent and condition of natural and cul-tural resources, remain unfinished. This and other managementneeds assessments and necessary actions such as boundary sign-ing, exotic species control, prescribed burning and re-vegetationcannot be completed.Some specific examples of the effects of the funding shortfallare as follows:
Of the eight NLCS National Monuments in the study sample,none had inventoried more that 18 percent of the area for cul-tural resources. Half had inventoried 6 percent or less of the Monument.
Wilderness areas throughout the California desert are plaguedby off-road vehicle intrusions which damage vegetation andprotective soil crusts, subsequently causing erosion and dustparticulate pollution. Visible and lasting scars mar these other- wise pristine landscapes. Off-road vehicle impacts continue to bean issue despite a successful six year grant-funded effort by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to restore and rehabilitatedamaged areas.
NATIONAL LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION SYSTEM
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